Discussion:
The Number Ones: Wilbert Harrison’s “Kansas City”
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Bob Roman
2018-11-12 22:31:02 UTC
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A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.

Wilbert Harrison – “Kansas City”
HIT #1: May 18, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 2 weeks

The songwriting team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller cranked out hit after hit for 15 solid years, their resume going from “Hound Dog” to “Stand By Me” to “Is That All There Is?” But when they wrote “Kansas City” in 1952, they were just two blues-fan teenagers in Los Angeles; they’d never even been to Kansas City. And so “Kansas City” is a tribute to a place that exists entirely within the imagination: “I’m gonna be standing on the corner of 12th Street and Vine / With my Kansas City baby and a bottle of wine.”

Lieber and Stoller wrote the song for the piano prodigy Little Willie Littlefield, who released it in 1952. Over the years, other singers recorded it, including Little Richard, who later essentially rewrote it with his own song “Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey.” But “Kansas City” didn’t become a hit until Wilbert Harrison, a North Carolina-born singer who never scored a second hit, took a crack at it in 1959.

It’s hard to say why Harrison’s version of the song landed and the others didn’t. In Harrison’s hands, “Kansas City” is a perfectly amiable R&B rumble. “Kansas City” is a song written from a position of desperation: The narrator has just suffered from heartbreak, so he’s determined to get to Kansas City and score with one of the “crazy little women” there. But Harrison doesn’t sing it as a desperate song. Instead, he’s clearly having fun with it, and so it becomes a fun song instead. The song’s highlight is probably the giddy guitar solo from session player Wild Jimmy Spruill, complete with Harrison yelling “awwww, yeah!” As luck would have it, Spruill had also played a guitar solo on Dave “Baby” Cortez’s “The Happy Organ,” the song that hit #1 immediately before “Kansas City.”

GRADE: 6/10
SavoyBG
2018-11-12 22:39:16 UTC
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“Kansas City” didn’t become a hit until Wilbert Harrison, a North Carolina-born singer who never scored a second hit,

Fucking ignoramus doesn't even know "Let's Work Together."
Roger Ford
2018-11-13 06:47:56 UTC
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=E2=80=9CKansas City=E2=80=9D didn=E2=80=99t become a hit until Wilbert Har=
rison, a North Carolina-born singer who never scored a second hit,
Fucking ignoramus doesn't even know "Let's Work Together."
Yes,that serious omission leapt to the eye straightaway!

ROGER FORD
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Mark Dintenfass
2018-11-12 22:58:50 UTC
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Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit #1
in the Billboard Hot 100.
Wilbert Harrison ­ ³Kansas City²
HIT #1: May 18, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 2 weeks
The songwriting team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller cranked out hit after
hit for 15 solid years, their resume going from ³Hound Dog² to ³Stand By Me²
to ³Is That All There Is?² But when they wrote ³Kansas City² in 1952, they
were just two blues-fan teenagers in Los Angeles; they¹d never even been to
Kansas City. And so ³Kansas City² is a tribute to a place that exists
entirely within the imagination: ³I¹m gonna be standing on the corner of 12th
Street and Vine / With my Kansas City baby and a bottle of wine.²
Lieber and Stoller wrote the song for the piano prodigy Little Willie
Littlefield, who released it in 1952. Over the years, other singers recorded
it, including Little Richard, who later essentially rewrote it with his own
song ³Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey.² But ³Kansas City² didn¹t become a hit until Wilbert
Harrison, a North Carolina-born singer who never scored a second hit, took a
crack at it in 1959.
It¹s hard to say why Harrison¹s version of the song landed and the others
didn¹t. In Harrison¹s hands, ³Kansas City² is a perfectly amiable R&B rumble.
³Kansas City² is a song written from a position of desperation: The narrator
has just suffered from heartbreak, so he¹s determined to get to Kansas City
and score with one of the ³crazy little women² there. But Harrison doesn¹t
sing it as a desperate song. Instead, he¹s clearly having fun with it, and so
it becomes a fun song instead. The song¹s highlight is probably the giddy
guitar solo from session player Wild Jimmy Spruill, complete with Harrison
yelling ³awwww, yeah!² As luck would have it, Spruill had also played a
guitar solo on Dave ³Baby² Cortez¹s ³The Happy Organ,² the song that hit #1
immediately before ³Kansas City.²
At the time, "Kansas City" seemed to me a resurrection of "real r'n'r,"
and I loved it. I liked it even better than "Stagger Lee," and I still
do. I don't know if Beihan's idea that "'Kansas City' is a tribute to
a place that exists entirely within the imagination" is meant as a
criticism, and thus a part of his downgrading of it, but it shouldn't
be. Places that exist entirely within the imagination are, in fact, the
very heart of what makes any song or poem or novel or painting a work
of art.
--
--md
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Remove xx's from address to reply
SavoyBG
2018-11-12 23:48:48 UTC
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On Monday, November 12, 2018 at 5:58:55 PM UTC-5, Mark Dintenfass wrote:

Beihan's idea that "'Kansas City' is a tribute to
Post by Mark Dintenfass
a place that exists entirely within the imagination" is meant as a
criticism, and thus a part of his downgrading of it, but it shouldn't
be. Places that exist entirely within the imagination are, in fact, the
very heart of what makes any song or poem or novel or painting a work
of art.
Even you would have to admit that this guy is putting WAY too much emphasis on analyzing lyrics in 50s records.
Mark Dintenfass
2018-11-13 00:40:15 UTC
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Post by Mark Dintenfass
Beihan's idea that "'Kansas City' is a tribute to
Post by Mark Dintenfass
a place that exists entirely within the imagination" is meant as a
criticism, and thus a part of his downgrading of it, but it shouldn't
be. Places that exist entirely within the imagination are, in fact, the
very heart of what makes any song or poem or novel or painting a work
of art.
Even you would have to admit that this guy is putting WAY too much emphasis
on analyzing lyrics in 50s records.
Yes, I agree, as I thought I had already made clear. He's a product of
a lot of rock criticism that started in the late 60s, and the reason it
started is that it was a lot easier for clever critics to write about
lyrics than about the music itself. And that not only made for bad
criticism, it also led to a lot of bad and pretentious records. So we
agree about that. But I also think that the greatness of the Coasters,
for example, aside from the great singing, was half Leiber and half
Stoller.

And then, of course, there's the poetry of Chuck Berry. :-)
--
--md
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SavoyBG
2018-11-13 00:57:27 UTC
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Post by Mark Dintenfass
Post by Mark Dintenfass
Beihan's idea that "'Kansas City' is a tribute to
Post by Mark Dintenfass
a place that exists entirely within the imagination" is meant as a
criticism, and thus a part of his downgrading of it, but it shouldn't
be. Places that exist entirely within the imagination are, in fact, the
very heart of what makes any song or poem or novel or painting a work
of art.
Even you would have to admit that this guy is putting WAY too much emphasis
on analyzing lyrics in 50s records.
Yes, I agree, as I thought I had already made clear. He's a product of
a lot of rock criticism that started in the late 60s, and the reason it
started is that it was a lot easier for clever critics to write about
lyrics than about the music itself. And that not only made for bad
criticism, it also led to a lot of bad and pretentious records. So we
agree about that. But I also think that the greatness of the Coasters,
for example, aside from the great singing, was half Leiber and half
Stoller.
And then, of course, there's the poetry of Chuck Berry. :-)
Well the only # 1 record by the Coasters came before the Hot 100, and I doubt we will care very much what he has to say about "My Ding-A-Ling" when he gets to that.
Mark Dintenfass
2018-11-13 01:20:57 UTC
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Post by SavoyBG
Post by Mark Dintenfass
Post by Mark Dintenfass
Beihan's idea that "'Kansas City' is a tribute to
Post by Mark Dintenfass
a place that exists entirely within the imagination" is meant as a
criticism, and thus a part of his downgrading of it, but it shouldn't
be. Places that exist entirely within the imagination are, in fact, the
very heart of what makes any song or poem or novel or painting a work
of art.
Even you would have to admit that this guy is putting WAY too much emphasis
on analyzing lyrics in 50s records.
Yes, I agree, as I thought I had already made clear. He's a product of
a lot of rock criticism that started in the late 60s, and the reason it
started is that it was a lot easier for clever critics to write about
lyrics than about the music itself. And that not only made for bad
criticism, it also led to a lot of bad and pretentious records. So we
agree about that. But I also think that the greatness of the Coasters,
for example, aside from the great singing, was half Leiber and half
Stoller.
And then, of course, there's the poetry of Chuck Berry. :-)
Well the only # 1 record by the Coasters came before the Hot 100, and I doubt
we will care very much what he has to say about "My Ding-A-Ling" when he gets to that.
Of course, we can ask Bob to stop posting the stuff on the grounds that
#1s are irrelevant to our interests, but, on second thought, the guy
has made for some interesting conversations and, for me as approach 77,
a chance to make sure my memory is still in order.
--
--md
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SavoyBG
2018-11-13 01:31:08 UTC
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Post by Mark Dintenfass
Of course, we can ask Bob to stop posting the stuff
No, at least it's got us posting most days. It's always good to unite folks against a common enemy!
Roger Ford
2018-11-13 07:07:48 UTC
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On Mon, 12 Nov 2018 16:58:50 -0600, Mark Dintenfass
Post by Mark Dintenfass
Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit #1
in the Billboard Hot 100.
Wilbert Harrison ­ ³Kansas City²
HIT #1: May 18, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 2 weeks
The songwriting team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller cranked out hit after
hit for 15 solid years, their resume going from ³Hound Dog² to ³Stand By Me²
to ³Is That All There Is?² But when they wrote ³Kansas City² in 1952, they
were just two blues-fan teenagers in Los Angeles; they¹d never even been to
Kansas City. And so ³Kansas City² is a tribute to a place that exists
entirely within the imagination: ³I¹m gonna be standing on the corner of 12th
Street and Vine / With my Kansas City baby and a bottle of wine.²
Lieber and Stoller wrote the song for the piano prodigy Little Willie
Littlefield, who released it in 1952. Over the years, other singers recorded
it, including Little Richard, who later essentially rewrote it with his own
song ³Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey.² But ³Kansas City² didn¹t become a hit until Wilbert
Harrison, a North Carolina-born singer who never scored a second hit, took a
crack at it in 1959.
It¹s hard to say why Harrison¹s version of the song landed and the others
didn¹t. In Harrison¹s hands, ³Kansas City² is a perfectly amiable R&B rumble.
³Kansas City² is a song written from a position of desperation: The narrator
has just suffered from heartbreak, so he¹s determined to get to Kansas City
and score with one of the ³crazy little women² there. But Harrison doesn¹t
sing it as a desperate song. Instead, he¹s clearly having fun with it, and so
it becomes a fun song instead. The song¹s highlight is probably the giddy
guitar solo from session player Wild Jimmy Spruill, complete with Harrison
yelling ³awwww, yeah!² As luck would have it, Spruill had also played a
guitar solo on Dave ³Baby² Cortez¹s ³The Happy Organ,² the song that hit #1
immediately before ³Kansas City.²
At the time, "Kansas City" seemed to me a resurrection of "real r'n'r,"
and I loved it. I liked it even better than "Stagger Lee," and I still
do. I don't know if Beihan's idea that "'Kansas City' is a tribute to
a place that exists entirely within the imagination" is meant as a
criticism, and thus a part of his downgrading of it, but it shouldn't
be. Places that exist entirely within the imagination are, in fact, the
very heart of what makes any song or poem or novel or painting a work
of art.
Well the corner at Twelfth Street and Vine certainly existed within
Jer & Mike's imagination since there is no such place in Kansas City
since the two streets don't actually intersect.

I know because I tried to find when I was there :)

ROGER FORD
-----------------------

"Spam Free Zone" - to combat unwanted automatic spamming I have added
an extra "m" in my e-mail address (***@mmail.com).
Please delete same before responding.Thank you!
Jim Colegrove
2018-11-13 14:59:03 UTC
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Post by Roger Ford
On Mon, 12 Nov 2018 16:58:50 -0600, Mark Dintenfass
Post by Mark Dintenfass
Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit #1
in the Billboard Hot 100.
Wilbert Harrison ­ ³Kansas City²
HIT #1: May 18, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 2 weeks
The songwriting team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller cranked out hit after
hit for 15 solid years, their resume going from ³Hound Dog² to ³Stand By Me²
to ³Is That All There Is?² But when they wrote ³Kansas City² in 1952, they
were just two blues-fan teenagers in Los Angeles; they¹d never even been to
Kansas City. And so ³Kansas City² is a tribute to a place that exists
entirely within the imagination: ³I¹m gonna be standing on the corner of 12th
Street and Vine / With my Kansas City baby and a bottle of wine.²
Lieber and Stoller wrote the song for the piano prodigy Little Willie
Littlefield, who released it in 1952. Over the years, other singers recorded
it, including Little Richard, who later essentially rewrote it with his own
song ³Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey.² But ³Kansas City² didn¹t become a hit until Wilbert
Harrison, a North Carolina-born singer who never scored a second hit, took a
crack at it in 1959.
It¹s hard to say why Harrison¹s version of the song landed and the others
didn¹t. In Harrison¹s hands, ³Kansas City² is a perfectly amiable R&B rumble.
³Kansas City² is a song written from a position of desperation: The narrator
has just suffered from heartbreak, so he¹s determined to get to Kansas City
and score with one of the ³crazy little women² there. But Harrison doesn¹t
sing it as a desperate song. Instead, he¹s clearly having fun with it, and so
it becomes a fun song instead. The song¹s highlight is probably the giddy
guitar solo from session player Wild Jimmy Spruill, complete with Harrison
yelling ³awwww, yeah!² As luck would have it, Spruill had also played a
guitar solo on Dave ³Baby² Cortez¹s ³The Happy Organ,² the song that hit #1
immediately before ³Kansas City.²
At the time, "Kansas City" seemed to me a resurrection of "real r'n'r,"
and I loved it. I liked it even better than "Stagger Lee," and I still
do. I don't know if Beihan's idea that "'Kansas City' is a tribute to
a place that exists entirely within the imagination" is meant as a
criticism, and thus a part of his downgrading of it, but it shouldn't
be. Places that exist entirely within the imagination are, in fact, the
very heart of what makes any song or poem or novel or painting a work
of art.
Well the corner at Twelfth Street and Vine certainly existed within
Jer & Mike's imagination since there is no such place in Kansas City
since the two streets don't actually intersect.
I know because I tried to find when I was there :)
ROGER FORD
-----------------------
And I will attest to the same as I played KC many, many times in the
past.

https://barrybradford.com/standing-corner-12th-street-vine/

As to the comment in the last paragraph on "18th Street" he doesn't
mean rhyme scheme, he means note timing. You can sing "18th Street"
but you have to change the phrasing. "18th Street" doesn't sing the
same as "12th Street."

http://www.kcur.org/post/news-flash-world-kansas-city-has-no-12th-street-and-vine-heres-why
Dean F.
2018-11-13 02:05:23 UTC
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"Kansas City" is my second-favorite song of 1959:

https://rateyourmusic.com/list/goldwax317/1959-favorites/
Roger Ford
2018-11-13 06:57:20 UTC
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On Mon, 12 Nov 2018 18:05:23 -0800 (PST), "Dean F."
Post by Dean F.
https://rateyourmusic.com/list/goldwax317/1959-favorites/
Here's how I rate it on my 1959 list

11. Money Barrett Strong
12. Don't Mess With My Man Irma Thomas
13. Let The Good Times Roll Ray Charles
14. Back In The USA Chuck Berry
15. Love Potion # 9 Clovers
16. Kansas City Wilbert Harrison
17. Broken Hearted Melody Sarah Vaughan
18. Handy Man Jimmy Jones
19. I Know It's Hard But It's Fair "5" Royales
20. El Paso Marty Robbins


ROGER FORD
-----------------------

"Spam Free Zone" - to combat unwanted automatic spamming I have added
an extra "m" in my e-mail address (***@mmail.com).
Please delete same before responding.Thank you!
SavoyBG
2018-11-13 13:34:42 UTC
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Post by Roger Ford
On Mon, 12 Nov 2018 18:05:23 -0800 (PST), "Dean F."
Post by Dean F.
https://rateyourmusic.com/list/goldwax317/1959-favorites/
Here's how I rate it on my 1959 list
11. Money Barrett Strong
12. Don't Mess With My Man Irma Thomas
13. Let The Good Times Roll Ray Charles
14. Back In The USA Chuck Berry
15. Love Potion # 9 Clovers
16. Kansas City Wilbert Harrison
17. Broken Hearted Melody Sarah Vaughan
18. Handy Man Jimmy Jones
19. I Know It's Hard But It's Fair "5" Royales
20. El Paso Marty Robbins
And mine:

40 ¦ 40 Miles Of Bad Road ¦ Duane Eddy
41 ¦ (Do The) Mashed Potatoes ¦ Nat Kendrick & Swans
42 ¦ I Hear You Knockin' ¦ Lazy Lester
43 ¦ Lightnin's Troubles ¦ Lightnin' Slim
44 ¦ My Baby Is A Good 'Un ¦ Otis Rush
45 ¦ Kansas City ¦ Wilbert Harrison
46 ¦ All Night Long ¦ Little Richard
47 ¦ Childhood Sweetheart ¦ Chuck Berry
48 ¦ Good Good Lovin' ¦ James Brown
49 ¦ Hurry Up ¦ Paul Marvin
50 ¦ It's Late ¦ Ricky Nelson

Harrison's version is not even my favorite version of the year:

19 ¦ Kansas City ¦ Little Richard

And there's also...

52 ¦ Kansas City ¦ Hank Ballard & Midnighters
Roger Ford
2018-11-13 16:25:02 UTC
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Post by Roger Ford
On Mon, 12 Nov 2018 18:05:23 -0800 (PST), "Dean F."
Post by Dean F.
https://rateyourmusic.com/list/goldwax317/1959-favorites/
Here's how I rate it on my 1959 list
16. Kansas City Wilbert Harrison
45 =C2=A6 Kansas City =C2=A6 Wilbert Harrison
49 =C2=A6 Hurry Up =C2=A6 Paul Marvin
Thanks for ruining my day with a GREAT New Orleans record that I don't
have!! Never seen it not even in an enormous stash of different Ron
45's we once found in some La. warehouse

ROGER FORD
-----------------------

"Spam Free Zone" - to combat unwanted automatic spamming I have added
an extra "m" in my e-mail address (***@mmail.com).
Please delete same before responding.Thank you!
Eric Ramon
2018-11-15 23:09:03 UTC
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Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Wilbert Harrison – “Kansas City”
HIT #1: May 18, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 2 weeks
The songwriting team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller cranked out hit after hit for 15 solid years, their resume going from “Hound Dog” to “Stand By Me” to “Is That All There Is?” But when they wrote “Kansas City” in 1952, they were just two blues-fan teenagers in Los Angeles; they’d never even been to Kansas City. And so “Kansas City” is a tribute to a place that exists entirely within the imagination: “I’m gonna be standing on the corner of 12th Street and Vine / With my Kansas City baby and a bottle of wine.”
Lieber and Stoller wrote the song for the piano prodigy Little Willie Littlefield, who released it in 1952. Over the years, other singers recorded it, including Little Richard, who later essentially rewrote it with his own song “Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey.” But “Kansas City” didn’t become a hit until Wilbert Harrison, a North Carolina-born singer who never scored a second hit, took a crack at it in 1959.
It’s hard to say why Harrison’s version of the song landed and the others didn’t. In Harrison’s hands, “Kansas City” is a perfectly amiable R&B rumble. “Kansas City” is a song written from a position of desperation: The narrator has just suffered from heartbreak, so he’s determined to get to Kansas City and score with one of the “crazy little women” there. But Harrison doesn’t sing it as a desperate song. Instead, he’s clearly having fun with it, and so it becomes a fun song instead. The song’s highlight is probably the giddy guitar solo from session player Wild Jimmy Spruill, complete with Harrison yelling “awwww, yeah!” As luck would have it, Spruill had also played a guitar solo on Dave “Baby” Cortez’s “The Happy Organ,” the song that hit #1 immediately before “Kansas City.”
GRADE: 6/10
sort of interesting to me, he recently gave Harper Valley PTA a 10.
Roger Ford
2018-11-24 17:06:22 UTC
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On Mon, 12 Nov 2018 14:31:02 -0800 (PST), Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit =
#1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Wilbert Harrison =E2=80=93 =E2=80=9CKansas City=E2=80=9D
HIT #1: May 18, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 2 weeks
Here's how it did in the 1959 Singles Battle

R1 Kingston Trio - M.T.A 3
Harrison 27

2 Harrison 24
Soul Stirrers - Stand By Me Father 1

3 James Brown - I Want You So Bad 2
Harrison 24

4 Chuck Berry - Almost Grown 5
Harrison 24

5 Eddie Cochran - Somethin' Else 5
Harrison 26

6 Harrison 13
Falcons - You're So Fine 18

ROGER FORD
-----------------------

"Spam Free Zone" - to combat unwanted automatic spamming I have added
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